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Timeless Books on Horsemanship

Books by Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman continue to teach horse owners.

In creating relationships with horses or with people, these three books on horsemanship by Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman have changed countless lives for the better.

Great horsemen follow a lineage, and it was no different with horsemen Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. Dorrance worked as a teacher for years with the late Hunt, who in turn took the information and traveled extensively putting on clinics, working with people and their horses all over the horse world. Hunt’s travels sparked an entire new generation of horsemen, including a young trainer at the time named Buck Brannaman.

Interestingly, at the insistence of their students, each of these three have books that are classics in the world of horse-human relationships. Tom Dorrance published True Unity in 1987; Ray Hunt published Think Harmony with Horses in 1978; and in 1997 Buck Brannaman published Groundwork: The First Impression.

Tom Dorrance's book cover for "True Unity"

Fortunately for us and for horses everywhere, all three books are still in print. And while all of these books are about working with horses, they are about something more. In describing effective horse-training methods, the authors also teach a lot about having more effective relationships in general – with your horse, your spouse, your kids and your coworkers.

All three volumes ask the reader to slow down and listen. Be courteous and respectful. They teach that life is a dance and to succeed, relationships must have give and take.

There is a great wisdom in these books beyond the horse arena. As Tom Dorrance puts it, “I try to feel what the horse is feeling and then I can operate from where the horse is. I have watched horses when they are loose by themselves or loose in a group; gentle raised or wild range raised, their naturalness will show. And by studying their actions and reactions I have been helped to understand how to present myself in such a way that the horses will respond to what I may ask of them.”

Sounds to me like an effective day at the office. Tom Dorrance gives credit where credit is due when he says, “What I know about the horse I learned from the horse.”

Ray Hunt's cover "Think Harmony with Horses"

Like his mentor and teacher, the late Ray Hunt furthered the cause. Hunt’s visiting-clinic approach to working with horses enabled tens of thousands to learn more about this quiet revolution.

“Working with the horse is a way of life for me,” he wrote. “He’s my livelihood, my hobby, my passion. If given a little thought, a little understanding, and a little common sense, the horse gives back in full measure. If the human can give 5 percent, the horse will come from the other side with 95 percent. The horse never ceases to amaze me with what he can get done with very little help from the human.”

As a young man, Buck Brannaman had the opportunity to see Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance at a clinic near a ranch he was working on near Bozeman, Montana. Brannaman has never forgotten that first impression.

It’s a truth that may be not as subtle as it seems. As humans, we all want to communicate better and hopefully be better attuned to the feelings of those we care about—horse or human.

Buck Brannaman's book "Groundwork"

“The things that Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance have taught me about myself, have changed my life,” Brannaman says. “The approach that they showed me was like nothing I’d ever seen, nor probably will ever see again. Life and horses—it’s all the same to me.”

The books these three have written help people do just that. Even though the volumes have been around for a while, their affect continues to be significant, both in and out of the world of horses and saddles. Brannaman’s friend and mentor Ray Hunt summed it up pretty well.

“As time goes on, all the little things will fall into line,” Hunt says. “A lot of times, it is darkest before the dawn. Sometimes the horse might get a little worse before it gets better. We should be adjusting to fit the horse. Fix it up and let it work. You can’t make it happen and you can’t put a time limit on it. Sometimes the slower you go, the faster you learn.”


1 thought on “Timeless Books on Horsemanship”

  1. For two of the books on your list (Dorrance and Hunt) the editor credit on the front cover is Milly Hunt Porter. She was instrumental in getting both books written, edited, designed, published, printed and marketed. Speculation is difficult, but without Milly, both Hunt and Dorrance would have had regional notoriety, but not the broad reaching impact they do today. My 15 year old son is a student of both men. Milly is still alive, very active and living in Bruneau, Idaho. I saw her selling her books this weekend in Bruneau. I would love to see an outfit with some reach do a profile on Milly so that her contributions to Horsemanship aren’t forgotten.


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